Draw Near

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I love the scents and colors of herbs. In recent years, I have begun learning a bit about how to grow and gather a few of them and about some of their uses. I enjoy my little spots in the flower garden and pots on my sun porch and I help with some at my in-law’s home. “It’s a happy,” as my daughter would say as a child to describe something she liked. Not all my growing attempts are successful, but repeat attempts are sometimes more fruitful after I learn more about them. Some creature (perhaps a rabbit?) thoroughly enjoyed my in-law’s basil this year, which had to be replanted two times! Then too, I find that some plants are just not suited for the areas available, so other plants are found that will flourish there. Herbs, used from ancient times to improve health, to treat illness and injury and to cook with, have much to offer. Like insects, we are drawn to them because they can provide comfort, healing, and enjoyment of growing things.

As I was considering this, I thought of how God wants us to draw near to Him. He loves for us to come to Him and to thank Him when we are enjoying the scents and colors of life. When we draw close to Him we are recognizing who He is. God can show us where we will flourish when we are receptive to His offered gifts and guidance. He is the source of comfort and healing. Have you ever been to the point where you just didn’t know what to say or do, or even if you wanted to try?! While all our “growing” attempts are not successful, God helps us to thrive. I am so thankful for those around me, people who reach out or give a hug or word to help through difficult times and to join in times of celebration. Sometimes we need to be “replanted” and sometimes we need to be faithful and to learn so that we can thrive where we are. I’m so thankful that He is with me, especially on my “I’m just done” days! Draw near. Like insects drawn to herbs, we are drawn to the One who provides, who is the source of life.

But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works. Psalm 73:28

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you… James 4:6a

Breath!

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Have you ever considered how the world would be without the movement of air?! I remember that on hot summer days when I was growing up, we kids would giggle as we spoke into a blowing fan and listened to our strange voices. When I am working with children to improve their speech, they learn about the parts that are used to form words. After we go through the basic tongue, lips, and “motor” (voice box), we try saying a sound without using air. Of course, we can’t!

Some of my favorite camping memories as a girl are of lying in our tent camper at night, listening to the wind sighing in the treetops and feeling its cool touch on my face. I still love to have a window fan blowing in my room on a summer night. My spirit settles as I breath in that fresh stream of air.

The book of Genesis says that when God formed man, He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Isaiah referred to “God the Lord… the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it.” Life is a precious gift, and how often do we misuse it or take it for granted?! Just as no words can be produced without the element of air, so life cannot be fully expressed without God’s breath within us. When I catch myself feeling rushed when going about my busy plans and responsibilities, I remind myself to pause and breath in God’s presence. He is like a cool touch to my hurried soul and fresh strength and peace to my heart.

*Genesis 2:7, Isaiah 42:5

DIGGING IN MY TOES!

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Ah! The joy of releasing tired, hot feet from the confines of shoes and socks! My mom and I used to kid about our “hillbilly blood” because our shoes inevitably fell off when we came home. Warm summer rain showers were the perfect opportunity for my brothers and me to splash barefoot up and down our gravel drive in town. On summer trips with the family, I remember digging my toes into the soft warm dirt of my grandparents’ country drive. Have you ever walked through a wet vegetable garden and ended up doubling the thickness of the soles of your shoes with mud?! Just walking becomes an effort.

Sometimes our lives get like that, mired down with stuff that drags us down and overwhelms. We splash barefoot before God in our pain and doubt and it is difficult to see joy. When His wonderful grace and love showers down upon us, we in our weariness do not always see it. We may be unable to receive until it has had time to soak in. I love the words of the psalmist who wrote, (God) lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. * Like on those warm summer days, we can dig our toes into the strength of His being. God lifts us up and sets us on solid ground. What joy and release when we stand with Him in faith, free of the confines of life which weigh us down!

* Psalm 40:2

Apple of His Eye

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Apples! I love apples! …I remember the taste of crunchy, sweet apples fresh off the tree in the backyard of our small-town home when I was growing up. The smell of apples cooking as Mom busied herself about the kitchen making apple butter and jelly, pies, and applesauce still lingers in my mind! Those wonderful summer days of gathering apples, listening to the neighbor’s honeybees about their work, and resting in the cool shade of their boughs are forever etched in my memory. I can still hear the sounds of laughter as my three brothers and I played, worked, and ate our fill of those apples!

Have you ever wondered where the phrase “the apple of my eye” came from? The writer of Deuteronomy says that God found his people in a desert land, “a barren and howling waste,” but cared for them and guarded them “as the apple of his eye.” The psalmist prayed to God, “Keep me as the apple of your eye”! This phrase is literally translated “the little man of the eye.” …If you look closely into the eyes of someone, you can see your own image reflected in that round central circle of their pupil. Think about it. Our very image is reflected in the eye of God! How awesome is that?!

God watches over us. Cherishes us. He keeps our very image before Him! Like those childhood memories, He brings comfort and joy to His children.

REFUGE

Blog Post 7_Poem REFUGE 1A

Have you ever noticed how a mother bird will spread her wings over her chicks to provide protection and to hide them from the eyes of predators? That space under the shadow of her wings is a refuge, a place of safety and comfort. The chicks trust the hen and so they stay close-by and are nurtured, protected, and guided.

What a powerful image that is for us when we feel overwhelmed, attacked, or swallowed by grief and despair! In the books of Ruth and Psalms, God is a loving protector who gathers us in the shadow of His wings. Like the chicks, we are His children, knowing our own weakness and need. When we come to Him, He offers us a place of security.

Ruth realized that her mother-in-law Naomi had something special; she came to God when all seemed lost. The psalmist said, “Hey, this is a good thing! I’m going to stay here with God forever, walking close-by and covered when times are tough!”

How easy it can be to wander off. Jesus lamented, grieved deeply, for the people of Jerusalem who had turned away those God had sent. “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37 & Luke 13:34). At times my own thoughts churn endlessly, stressing over a day’s events or unresolved issues and troubles. This image of God surrounding us with His sheltering wings provides comfort, security, and hope for everyone and reminds us to stay close to Him.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 36:7 (NIV)